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Eau Claire Mom Leslee Cruz Talks About Building a Family, Being Adaptable, and Bear Hugs


Leslee Shannon Cruz


Carlos (husband), sons Antonio (13) and Makai (7),
dog Gypsy


West Side, Eau Claire


Eau Claire wasn’t the first choice to build a career and a family for Leslee Cruz. However, it ended up being the right choice. Cruz, a native of Iowa, graduated from Cornell College in 2000 and planned to teach in Bolivia. When that option fell through, she “blanketed the country” with job applications and received a call back from the Eau Claire Area School District. “At the time, I had no idea where Eau Claire even was!” she admits. However, she adds, “I was just thrilled with the possibility of finally doing what I loved.” She landed a job teaching English learners at Longfellow Elementary School in Eau Claire, and has been in the Valley since. Her husband, Carlson, relocated to Eau Claire from Florida in 2002, and they decided to call the area home. This community has evolved so much over the years to include fantastic parks, art centers, and restaurants that we have no reason to leave,” she says. After about 10 years with son Antonio as their only child, the couple decided to become foster parents with the hope that it would lead to adoption. It did: Last June, they adopted another son, Makai, making their family complete. 

We love the Chippewa Valley because...

... of the beautiful trails and parks. I am so thankful that I have instilled in my boys their love of nature. We love to explore the outdoors. Often as we drive in the car we take note of a new trail that we want explore! 

I couldn’t live without ...

... coffee! I am a much better mom if I can get my coffee in the morning.

My favorite place to take the kids is ...

... Phoenix Park. Our dog, Gypsy, loves to try to chase the ducks down by the water. Antonio loves to fish there, while Makai rides his scooter around. I love running across the beautifully illuminated bridge toward the Pablo Center. It’s my stress relief! 

My family has taught me ...

... to live in the moment! It’s my nature to ruminate over concerns and worry about what’s to come, but I’ve found that I miss so much in doing that. I really try to be present in what I am doing. If it’s completing chores, I focus on getting them done. If it’s watching a movie with the family or playing with the boys, I try to be present and avoid becoming distracted by other tasks in those moments. The boys hold me accountable! If I am talking with a friend or relative on the phone I call them at a time when I can be fully invested in the conversation.

Our typical weekend is ...

... a little bit of everything. We really try to be balanced. Friday nights are pizza and movie nights at the Cruz home! Carlos loves to make homemade pizza. Saturday mornings we usually all help out with chores and then head out somewhere. Sundays we go to church and have fun together at home. I squeeze in a couple of runs when I can.

In the winter, you’ll find us at or doing ...

... the Indoor Sport Center if it’s below freezing. Otherwise we may be out at Rod and Gun Park with Gypsy playing in the snow.

My spouse would say my super power is ...

... my adaptability. This skill makes for a great travel companion. I will go anywhere and do anything when on vacation as long as I don’t have to plan it.

My kids will tell you that their mom ...

... gives great bear hugs! I snatch my boys up wherever I can find them. It’s gotten to the point where they look over at me and they can instinctively tell what’s to come and run away. I don’t care if my son is 13, he still gets them, too! Although, I do have to refrain myself in public.

If I could pass on one bit of advice it would be ...

... let go of what is out of your control. It took some time, but the moment I was fully able to embrace this idea I felt so free. We can’t control what happens to us, what people think of us, or the choices others make. We can only control how we choose to respond to our feelings and situations.

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